When we first walked up to the Thomas' house in Central, one thing stood out to me -- the dry, cracked ground that was present on the day of our visit is something they would have prayed for in 2016. Sarah Thomas told us how they first found out their house had taken on water in the 2016 flood.
"And we were sitting there on Sunday, which was the day after the flood and my neighbor texted me and said someone just went down our neighborhood and all they can see is rooftops. And we lost it because we thought we were going to get a couple of inches. Everybody did, I'm sure."
Thomas and her husband, Dustin, had two boys, ages 2 and 6, with a third on the way at the time of the flood. You can imagine the stress they were dealing with, but at least there was some comfort in knowing that they had flood insurance. Thomas said the initial visits from their insurance company provided some encouraging news.
"An adjuster came out and spoke with us from NFIP and stated several times that it was oh, more than likely that we would get our policy maximum because we had 5 and a half feet of water."
They also got a "substantial damage" letter from the City of Central and Thomas explained why that was an important designation.
"You have to either demolish your home and build it elevated or elevate the foundation itself which is very, very pricey, which would have probably been all of our insurance money."
They went ahead and demolished the house but they were dealt another blow by their insurance company. They told the Thomas' they would only be receiving about 60 percent of the value of their flood policy. It was a surprising and disheartening estimate for a house that took on more than 5 feet of water.
And Thomas said the explanation for the seemingly low ball estimate was even more shocking.
"My husband talked to them and they said, we paid for everything the water touched. Period."
Senator John Kennedy is a co-sponsor of two bills in Congress aimed at reforming the National Flood Insurance Program. One thing he hopes to address is giving clear authority to FEMA to fire adjusters and consultants. He hopes this can help people like the Thomas family.
"If what's going on here is that you are being jacked around and you've had to go file a lawsuit and spend money to file a lawsuit, it's disgraceful. It's unconscionable. And it's wrong. And I wish I could wave my magic wand and fix it. But I can't...but we're trying."
In the meantime, there's little help for Sarah Thomas and her family and she's left to wonder how much longer they'll be fighting to get out of their FEMA trailer and back into a permanent home. She says that the National Flood Insurance Program seems to be done with them.
"I still sometimes thing there's something I did wrong. Why are we not recovered? And everyone else that had flood insurance. But the more I talk to them, just, they don't even want to acknowledge that our house is gone. They're done, I guess."
Neighbors have launched a GoFundMe account to help Sarah Thomas and her family.
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